Festival Updates Interview: Robert Siegel of BIG FAN

Faith Salie speaks with BIG FAN writer/director Robert Siegel and actors Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Sarafina FIore, and Gino Cafarelli. Presented by Honda, The Power of Dreams.

U.S.A., 2008, 102 min., color

For legions of people, sports teams are religion, and their favorite players are their idols. This notion sparks the hilarious premise of BIG FAN, the exhilarating directing debut from Robert Siegel, the screenwriter of THE ONION MOVIE and THE WRESTLER. Paul Aufiero, a 35-year-old parking-garage attendant from working-class Staten Island, is the self-described “world’s biggest New York Giants fan.”

One night Paul and his best friend, Sal, spot star Giants linebacker Quantrell Bishop at a gas station in Staten Island. They impulsively follow his SUV into Manhattan to a strip club, where they finally muster up the courage to talk to their hero. What starts out as a dream come true turns into a nightmare as a misunderstanding ignites a violent confrontation, and Paul is sent down a path that will test his devotion to the extreme.

Patton Oswalt is perfectly cast as Paul, infusing him with a humanity that renders him empathetic instead of pathetic. Siegel has an innate understanding of—and reverence for—his characters but finds humor in every scene by perfectly capturing the details of their world. From the posters on the walls, to the NFL bed sheets, to the “spontaneous” smack talking, he nails it. Big Fan resonates with truth and insight, and the result is a film that will make you laugh and wince at the same time—a very winning combination. —TREVOR GROTH